||Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00
Drinking just two cups of green tea a day may be enough to block the progress of HIV infection, according to new research conducted jointly by scientists in Texas and the UK. The study found that epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a major polyphenol found in green tea, has the potential to block the AIDS virus from destroying immune cells.
EGCG is a flavonoid which imparts the green color to green tea. Earlier studies found that it possesses anti-cancer, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Many EGCG-based cancer drugs are being tested in clinical trials.
Scientists have known for some time that EGCG is anti-HIV although the exact mechanism was not clear. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and University of Sheffield, UK, have now discovered that EGCG binds to the same spot where HIV can infect cells.
According to the study, a surface protein called gp120 allows HIV virus to eject its genetic material into the cells via a special "pocket" on the cell surface. However, when EGCG blocks the pocket, HIV cannot get inside the cells and healthy cells remain uninfected.
Dr. Christina Nance, a Baylor pediatrics instructor and research supervisor for allergy and immunology at Texas Children's Hospital, said that for the study the researchers used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to "see" what EGCG does to prevent HIV infection from progressing.
"One of the promising factors is, that because this is a small molecule and binds to the same exact binding pocket as (HIV's) gp120, it may not inhibit the (normal) function of the CD4 molecule," Nance said. The amount of EGCG needed to block HIV progression in the laboratory was derived from just two cups of green tea.
However, researchers acknowledged that more work was needed to confirm the beneficial effects if they were to be channeled into drug development. "It would be part of a cocktail of drugs," Nance said.
The research appears online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
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